Origin Story Interview w/ Auriane Borremans, The Butcher's Daughter & Eatention

Origin Story Interview w/ Auriane Borremans, The Butcher's Daughter & Eatention

Brighter Future

 / 

May 17, 2023

#BrighterFuture #entrepreneurship #Sustainability #ClimateChangeSolution #originstoryseries #seekthechange #VegetarianCuisine #MeatlessMission #PlantBasedJourney #meatalternative

Brighter Future

We had the pleasure of talking with Auriane Borremans, founder of both the plant-based food brand “The Butcher's Daughter,” and Eatention, a company dedicated to developing plant-based food offerings.

Thank you so much for joining us, Auriane. Could tell us a bit about yourself and your business?

Hello! My name is Auriane Borremans, and I was born and still live in Brussels, Belgium. My business, Eatention, offers marketing services to the plant-based food industry. I help companies that either already have a plant-based product but want to revamp their strategy to keep up with the fast-growing market and changing consumer behaviour, or companies, such as meat producers, that are interested in entering the plant-based industry but don't know where to start.

I recently launched my brand, Butcher's Daughter, which offers prepared plant-based meals, including options for vegetarians and vegans. The idea behind the brand is to highlight the importance of whole foods, such as legumes, vegetables, grains, and cereals. My brand's mission is to help people appreciate these ingredients and bring them back into their diets.

I come from a family of butchers, but I chose to become a vegetarian. With three generations of butchers behind me, my brand represents a departure from tradition towards a more sustainable and plant-based future.

Is all of your work centred around plant-based food? Why do you think it is important, and why does it matter? Why should people care?

We're missing an essential aspect of our cooking culture: cooking vegetables, cereals, and legumes. We've lost this education in cooking, which is why we need to care about it. There are numerous fake meats in the plant-based industry, but they're only necessary for certain moments, such as barbecues with friends, when we need to fit into the wider culture.

We can’t survive on fake meats alone. The mission to reduce the impact of climate change on our planet is to reduce our meat consumption, as everyone knows that meat has a significant impact on the planet. But if we continue to rely solely on fake meat, we risk forgetting the taste and character of vegetables and other whole foods. That's why it's so important to care about these ingredients in particular.

Do you believe it's important for people to recognise and appreciate their origins, which are rooted in agriculture and the natural world?

Yes— it's essential for people to understand the origins of their food. That said, I'm not a farmer, so I can’t teach them about where carrots come from in my own work. Instead, I show them how good vegetables, grains, and cereals taste when cooked in different and exciting ways. For example, rice isn't bland— there are just many different ways to cook it. For the next ten years, my mission is to teach people how to use these ingredients.

You mentioned that your family has a background in butchery. Looking back to your early years, can you share how your upbringing and family roots have influenced your journey as an entrepreneur?

My dad is a butcher-entrepreneur and my mother also tried various businesses— and, of course, they have both motivated me to be an entrepreneur myself. Even though my dad's business does not best-represent sustainability— meat is not a good image— it is inspiring in terms of entrepreneurship.

But the business that truly inspired me, ever since childhood, was McDonald's. One of my earliest significant school assignments was about chain restaurants. And when I was around 15 years old, I was impressed with how the McDonald brothers created a fast-food burger restaurant and expanded the concept worldwide. I find this fascinating. After that, other fast-food chains like KFC and Burger King also caught my attention. These franchises are not sustainable— not by a longshot— but the success of their business models, and how these companies built themselves up, is worth thinking about.

When did you become aware of the connection between food and the planet in your journey? Where did this realisation occur?

It all began when people around me and the media started talking about how not eating meat meant taking a stand for the planet. I was proud of my father and meat-eating, and I couldn't understand why anyone would say otherwise. I was upset with these people and wondered why they held such views.

My journey started when I moved to the US in 2016 to work for a food company. I developed recipes for a chain of restaurants, and it was a dream come true. However, I was shocked to witness Americans' unhealthy behaviours towards their food. The clichés were all true. People didn't care about what they were eating and had no idea where their food came from. I would ask them about the source of their meat, and they would just say it came from McDonald's. I was practically speechless: how could anyone feel like this?

Afterwards, I began to search for a school or program to study the future of food. I vividly remember sitting at my computer, wondering what would happen next. I typed “Future Food Studies,” and the results of that web search led me to enrol in a master's program on the subject. But my journey toward understanding the connection between food and the planet started much earlier, with my activism and the realisation that many Americans still have poor eating habits and lack general food literacy.

What factors influenced your decision to establish your brand and to pursue your current job, assisting other companies or food stores in developing strategies and implementing changes?

I believe many ideas came from my head. As I linked different ideas, I eventually came up with my own company. However, what intrigued me the most was finding all the information from various studies that have been published on the subject of food trends. I have made a pretty intense personal study of this, reading about it almost every day for the last decade, and I really enjoy doing it.

A problem with most of these studies was that they showcased consumer food trends in percentages that did not necessarily reflect what the consumers truly wanted or thought. For instance, I had a hard time believing a study that seemed to conclude that 50% of supermarket consumers preferred plant-based food. This did not match my own observations in supermarkets, which I preferred to do over just reading research papers. I would spend hours in supermarkets, talking with consumers, watching their behaviour, and analysing their baskets. Doing this gave me some great— and fascinating— qualitative insights.

It became clear to me that food companies were not interested in these insights. Instead, they seemed to want only to spend thousands of euros on studies that produced nice-looking but ultimately flawed numbers. That realisation led me to create my company, which aimed to bring consumer insights to food companies to help them develop better food products.

During my master’s degree in the future of food, I wrote a book on the topic, and chose to focus on the future of protein. At that time, there was much debate about eating meat, so I decided to conduct research to understand the issue better. I interviewed people and concluded that I should reduce my meat consumption. Eventually I became a vegetarian. I found it amusing that, as a butcher's daughter, I had made this choice. And so, the story of my new brand, The Butcher's Daughter, began.

It sounds like you’ve been very scientific in your approaches. That’s great. What would you say is the most fulfilling part of your work?

The most fulfilling aspect, at least for now, is when people purchase my products and express their appreciation for them, and say they’d love to buy them again. But my daily job is still observing new brands appearing on the shelves and new consumers trying out these new products. This is most fulfilling because we can create numerous products— but if customers don’t buy them, then of course it’s pointless. So I enjoy watching how things go every day, and teaching consumers. In addition, I love conducting workshops about plant-based products, and it brings me joy to see people's eyes light up with surprise and curiosity. It feels like being a teacher and seeing happy children in a happy bubble.

Did you ever reach a point in your life or career where you took a completely different path than expected and surprised yourself with this sudden change?

Seven years ago, I would have never thought I could go vegetarian. I didn’t understand why anyone would try it. So, I surprised myself. But I guess I surprise myself every day, even when I crave certain foods I know I shouldn’t eat. This change in my career has also impacted my life, as I train every day, not just at work. Altering my diet has been the biggest change, and it has influenced my career as well.

Would you say that sometimes you want to have meat again? How challenging is that on a day-to-day basis?

I would say that it's not a challenge on a day-to-day basis unless I'm in a country or city where it's hard to find vegetarian options. But that doesn’t happen very often. The hardest moments for me are around Christmas, when I’m with my family and there are lots of meat specialities— things I used to enjoy, and that aren’t easily imitated with vegetarian or vegan products. Of course, I do miss that sort of thing. Sometimes I might have a tiny amount of meat to have that flavour and texture again, but I can't eat more than that because it's almost like it’s too strong for me. It's like drinking a tablespoon of coffee because you can’t stomach anything more.

What was your family’s reaction when they heard that you were going vegetarian? How did they adapt and adjust?

The news of me becoming a vegetarian spread quickly. The first to know was my mother. She is very open-minded regarding nutrition, so while she was a bit surprised, she was ultimately okay with my decision. I remember being a bit nervous when I first told her and tried to gauge her reaction, but she ended up being supportive. At first, she was a bit confused about what she could cook for me, but she has been learning and doing well.

My father was more difficult to convince, despite also being open-minded. As an entrepreneur, he immediately thought about the business opportunities in the plant-based market and joked that I would be able to teach him a thing or two. However, he also cared about my well-being and expressed concern, telling me to take care and wishing me luck.

My brother was very understanding and supportive from the beginning and even expressed interest in learning more about the plant-based market. However, some of my other relatives, including my father, still express concern about my health and weight, especially during COVID-19, even though I’ve felt fine.

Overall, the conversation went well with my family, although I initially felt awkward explaining my decision. Despite the initial hesitation and confusion, everyone has been adjusting to my new dietary preferences.

Did you have any “Aha!” moments in your career, entrepreneurial journey, or personal life that greatly impacted how you approached things in the future?

One such moment occurred at the very beginning of my company’s formation when a Swiss retailer contacted me to do a presentation on the future of retail. Although it was nerve-wracking to speak in front of a large audience, mainly male-dominated, it helped me gain confidence in my abilities and experience as a business owner. It was a significant moment in my career.

Another significant moment occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic when I created a brand called Alex Spices, which offered a blend of spices for cooking plant-based meals at home. Although the business did not succeed, I learned valuable lessons from the experience. Meeting other entrepreneurs who had started and failed multiple businesses helped me realise that failure is a natural part of the entrepreneurial journey. I know multiple people who have created thirty businesses or more, with only around ten successes.

One of the most important lessons I learned is that sales matter in business, especially online sales, where investing in online ads can be expensive. Creating a product or brand is easy, but selling it can be challenging, and sales skills are crucial for success.

How did you adapt to the global market where you may need to communicate with customers in English, given that French is your native language and you have worked with companies from other countries?

I have been studying English since I turned 18. And I still work with an international client for a winery’s packaging business based in Australia. I enjoy having an international perspective as it helps me keep an open mind and to continue practising my English. However, most of my clients are based in Europe (specifically, Belgium) because I have a good network there and they’re easy to reach. I also have contact with international financial planners through my LinkedIn profile and my role as the Brussels ambassador for Food Hack, an international network of food entrepreneurs.

What were the most significant sacrifices or compromises you had to make to get where you are today?

I had to sacrifice meat to create this business. Half of my decision was for the planet, but the other half was business-centred. I thought this opportunity would enable me to work in the plant-based industry for the next 50 years. If I didn't stop eating meat, I wouldn't be able to understand the plant-based market as much as I do now. That's why I made the sacrifice. I could have opened my mind to the plant-based market, and still ate some meat, but I decided I would be most effective if I cut out meat completely.

Reducing my meat consumption was difficult. It was a challenging question when I asked people how much meat they ate per week. Most consumers say that they eat meat once a week, but they never mention the ham, the little meats, or the meatballs they eat during the week. We're all lying about how much meat we eat, and we’re unaware of it. It was essential for me to completely move away from meat eating, which was hard mentally in the beginning, though at least not physically. I had to tell myself: “Okay, I'm only eating meat once a year— during Christmas— and literally only one bite.” It was a sacrifice, for sure.

Your story is unique, and you are a role model for people surrounded by meat consumption or who have grown up in families with a large meat intake. If you can do it, so can they.

Now I realise I can't help my dad with his meat company. This makes me sad because he faces tough times as an entrepreneur, and I wish I could assist him. But, unfortunately, the meat industry is very specific, and I don't know what to tell him. This is one of the biggest sacrifices for me besides giving up meat. I still hear many people say they could never give up eating meat, and I used to be the same six years ago.

It's always difficult when family or people you love come into play, right?

Yeah, it's pretty intense emotionally sometimes. However, my dad is very proud of me, even though he doesn't say it often. I hear from other people that he talks about me and is proud. It's a strange situation because I'm still working with him on a project, and we always talk business and the food industry in general. We both produce our meals for a catering company we created together, and he's happy about it. He likes to say that beyond meat, he’s foremost a chef who cooks with meat.

My grandfather created a meat brand decades ago, with my uncle's face on the logo wearing a chef's hat. Today, I have the logo for The Butcher's Daughter vegetarian brand with the name of the family involved. It's a beautiful story, and many people are surprised because it's a big company in Belgium. They ask me if I'm greenwashing, but I tell them I've been doing this for six years: I'm not greenwashing.

That’s a beautiful thought. And you're keeping the legacy of your family name, but bringing it in a new direction.

In the beginning, it was really hard because there was a lot of discussion about whether to put the company name on the packaging due to legal issues. The trouble came from the fact that I produce the plant-based meals at the same company where meat is produced. I didn't want people to see the well-known meat company name on my brand's packaging, but after four months, I changed my mind. I realised that the story behind the product is how it came from a meat company. So, we had to put the address of the meat company on the packaging as well due to legal requirements.

Have you faced any major difficulties when entering the food market?

Recently, the post-COVID environment has presented many opportunities for people who want to become independent. For example, many older individuals in their 50s and beyond have left their traditional jobs to become consultants in the food industry, drawing upon their years of experience. Similarly, newer entrepreneurs like myself entered the food industry three years ago, realising that the food we consume has a significant impact on our environment. This growing interest has led to increased competition in my field.

Which are your biggest challenges at work?

As a young blonde woman under 30, I have to fight every day to be listened to and heard, especially among men with more experience. In my workplace, people often address me as “young lady” because of my appearance.

It appears you have faced significant challenges as a young woman, but you clearly have great internal strength to overcome them. Can you discuss how your attitude has impacted how others react to you?

I cannot change the people I interact with, but I can speak up when the right moment arises.

Let me tell you a story: I was in a conference with two men in their forties. While there, I crossed my legs, a habit that most women have. Men, or at least these men, tend to sit with their legs apart, which conveys a sense of power over their environment. During the conference, one of the men called me “young lady,” which irritated me— it’s not like I would have called him “old boy.”

So I grabbed the microphone when it was my turn to talk, sat there with my legs apart like a man, and asked him what it was he wanted. I don’t recall my exact words, but the point was to show that I was in power— right? Just like he was.

I think this was the right moment to take action. I can’t change these people, but I can send a message when I have the chance. Frankly, I'd rather put my energy into the plant-based food market, the environment, and helping entrepreneurs, than wasting my time with old-fashioned people like that.

I don't have the time to deal with negative people, but their behaviour does still affect me. It does get to me sometimes. I feel weak, and I can cry all day. As an entrepreneur, I’ve faced multiple crises, including problems with my companies and dealing with negative comments. These comments, like “are you sure?” and “if I were you, I would do that,” are hurtful and impact me more than people realise.

One way I cope is by stepping back and talking to my coach every two to three weeks. However, I don't waste my energy fighting back. It's pointless to fight with people who are not open to change. Instead, I focus on working with people who are already trying to reduce their meat consumption because they're more open to change.

What mistakes did you make in your career that you think you have learned most significantly from?

I get distracted when I'm in contact with someone because I immediately think it could be a potential client. However, acquiring a client requires hours of meetings and emails. When people inquire about my services, I get excited and interested immediately, thinking I might have a new client. But I have to remind myself that it's not that simple: it takes time to gain clients' trust and prove that I can work for them. I also need to create a contract. I didn't always do that before, and it led to many problems.

I remind the young entrepreneurs I meet every day that time is money. Even though I'm still a young entrepreneur myself, I learned early on that time is valuable. Many startups in the food industry have approached me, asking for my help. I told them that if they wanted a consultation for more than 30 minutes, it would come at a certain price. For startups, it's still an affordable price, but at least it's a compensation for my time. While I love helping people, I also need to survive and make a living. It may be a cliché, and we may not wish to live as calculatingly as it might suggest, but it’s also a principle with a solid foundation: time is money.

Would you like to offer any advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, of any age?

Yes. It’s a long journey, with ups and downs. It's important to appreciate the ups and persevere during the downs. Don't worry if you experience setbacks; they're a normal part of life.

It's also crucial to surround yourself with kind people. This is especially important for a solo entrepreneur. I find it helpful to live and work in an environment full of various mindful and kind individuals with different personalities and lifestyles. This support network helps me navigate challenging moments. Friends can provide this support, as can other entrepreneurs in different industries. It's also important to remain open to reality.

What future would you like to help create with your work?

So, the journey has just started with The Butcher's Daughter, originally a blog and now my life's dream and brand. Over the next five years, my focus will be on this brand, and I want it to be seen as an important brand for the plant-based transition. My mission is to be in everyone's mind as a well-known plant-based food. I want my brand to be known not just as a meat replacement, but as something that can help people transition to a plant-based diet.

I don't want to be some overly-serious guru-type, but someone who can help with what matters most. Of course, my story as someone from a long line of butchers is important, but what I create matters most. I will write recipes, build products, and run workshops to help consumers cook and eat plant-based foods at home. That's my dream.

If you could send a message to everyone in the world, what would it be?

This is the sort of tagline that I wrote for Butcher’s Daughter, and I think it’s applicable here. It’s just: “Why not? Why not give it a try?”

I'm sure that when someone says, “Let's go Italian,” you ask, “Why not?” Let's appreciate the moment. Why not? Let's grow a moustache. Why not? Let's enjoy ourselves. Enjoy your day. Why not? Let's enjoy this moment. Why not? Why not? There are no reasons not to do it. What is your reason today not to drink the beer? Oh yeah, because you don't want to be fat. Who cares? Life is too short. So, why not give it a shot?

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, Auriane. We sincerely hope The Butcher’s Daughter, and your efforts to teach others about how to eat without meat, are more successful than you’ve ever thought possible.

If you would like to learn more about The Butcher's Daughter, visit www.lafilleduboucher.be

To stay up to date with our latest content and interviews with amazing people like Auriane, subscribe to the Brighter Future newsletter here.

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